Masonry Workers

Career, Salary and Education Information

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What Masonry Workers Do[About this section] [To Top]

Masonry workers, also known as masons, use bricks, concrete blocks, concrete, and natural and manmade stones to build walls, walkways, fences, and other masonry structures.

Duties of Masonry Workers

Masons typically do the following:

  • Read blueprints or drawings to calculate materials needed
  • Lay out patterns, forms, or foundations according to plans
  • Break or cut materials to required size
  • Mix mortar or grout and spread it onto a slab or foundation
  • Clean excess mortar with trowels and other hand tools
  • Construct corners with a corner pole or by building a corner pyramid
  • Align structure vertically and horizontally
  • Clean and polish surfaces with hand or power tools
  • Fill expansion joints with the appropriate caulking materials

Masonry materials are some of the most common and durable materials used in construction. Brick, block, and stone structures can last for hundreds of years. Concrete—a mixture of cement, sand, gravel, and water—is the foundation for everything from decorative patios and floors to huge dams or miles of roadways.

Brickmasons and blockmasons—often called bricklayers—build and repair walls, floors, partitions, fireplaces, chimneys, and other structures with brick, terra cotta, precast masonry panels, concrete block, and other masonry materials. Pointing, cleaning, and caulking workers are brickmasons who repair brickwork, particularly on older structures on which mortar has come loose. Refractory masons are brickmasons who specialize in installing firebrick, gunite, castables, and refractory tile in high-temperature boilers, furnaces, cupolas, ladles, and soaking pits in industrial establishments.

Cement masons and concrete finishers place and finish concrete. They may color concrete surfaces, expose aggregate (small stones) in walls and sidewalks, or make concrete beams, columns, and panels. Throughout the process of pouring, leveling, and finishing concrete, cement masons must monitor how the wind, heat, or cold affects the curing of the concrete. They must have a thorough knowledge of the characteristics of concrete so that they can determine what is happening to the concrete and take measures to prevent defects. Some small jobs may require the use of a supportive wire mesh called lath. On larger jobs, reinforcing iron and rebar workers install the reinforcing mesh.

Segmental pavers—also referred to as patio pavers—install interlocking masonry walkways, driveways, and patios. Workers need to prepare the site carefully to ensure the masonry units connect properly without gaps or ridges.

Stonemasons build stone walls, as well as set stone exteriors and floors. They work with two types of stone: natural-cut stone, such as marble, granite, and limestone; and artificial stone, made from concrete, marble chips, or other masonry materials. Using a special hammer or a diamond-blade saw, workers cut stone to make various shapes and sizes. Some stonemasons specialize in setting marble, which is similar to setting large pieces of stone.

Terrazzo workers and finishers, also known as terrazzo masons, create decorative walkways, floors, patios, and panels. Much of the terrazzo preliminary work of pouring, leveling, and finishing concrete is similar to that of cement masons. Epoxy terrazzo requires less base preparation and is significantly thinner when completed. Terrazzo workers create decorative finishes by blending fine marble chips into the epoxy or cement, which is often colored. Once the terrazzo is thoroughly set, workers correct any depressions or imperfections with a grinder to create a smooth, uniform finish. Terrazzo workers also install decorative toppings and/or polishing compounds to new or existing concrete.

Work Environment for Masonry Workers[About this section] [To Top]

Masonry workers hold about 252,900 jobs.

Employment in the detailed occupations that make up this group is distributed as follows:

Cement masons and concrete finishers 155,200
Brickmasons and blockmasons 78,100
Stonemasons 14,900
Terrazzo workers and finishers 3,400
Segmental pavers 1,300

About 66 percent of masonry workers are employed in the specialty trade contractors industry. About 1 in 10 masons are self-employed. Although most masons work in residential construction, many also work in nonresidential construction because most nonresidential buildings are now built with walls made of some combination of concrete block, brick veneer, stone, granite, marble, tile, and glass.

As with many other construction occupations, the work is fast-paced and strenuous. Masons often lift heavy materials and stand, kneel, and bend for long periods. The work, either indoors or outdoors, may be in areas that are muddy, dusty, or dirty. Poor weather conditions may reduce work activity because masons usually work outdoors.

Injuries and Illnesses

Brickmasons and blockmasons and cement masons and concrete finishers have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. Common injuries include muscle strains from lifting heavy materials, as well as cuts from tools and falls from scaffolds. To avoid injuries, many workers wear protective gear, including kneepads, harnesses, and water-repellent boots.

Masonry Worker Work Schedules

Although most masons work full time, some work more hours to meet construction deadlines. However, because they primarily work outdoors, masons may have to stop work in extreme cold or rainy weather. Nonetheless, new materials, such as concrete additives that cure at lower temperatures, have been developed that allow masons to work in a greater variety of weather conditions than in the past. Terrazzo masons may need to work at night when businesses are closed.

About 1 in 10 masonry workers are self-employed. Self-employed workers may be able to set their own schedule.

How to Become a Masonry Worker[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Masonry Workers near you!

Most masons have a high school diploma or equivalent and learn either on the job or through an apprenticeship program. Others learn through masonry programs at technical schools.

Masonry Worker Education

A high school diploma or equivalent is required for most masons. High school courses in mathematics, mechanical drawing, and vocational education are considered useful.

Many technical schools offer programs in basic masonry. These programs operate both independently and in conjunction with apprenticeship training. The credits earned as part of an apprenticeship program usually count toward an associate’s degree. Some people take courses before being hired, and some take them later as part of on-the-job training.

Masonry Worker Training

A 3- to 4-year apprenticeship is how most masons learn the trade. For each year of the program, apprentices must complete at least 144 hours of related technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. In the future, apprenticeships are expected to focus more on proven competencies than time-in-training and therefore the duration of apprenticeships may decrease.

Apprentices learn construction basics such as blueprint reading; mathematics, including measurement, volume, and mixing proportions; building code requirements; and safety and first-aid practices.

Several groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. Some apprenticeship programs have preferred entry for veterans. The basic qualifications for entering an apprenticeship program are as follows:

  • Minimum age of 18
  • High school education or equivalent
  • Physically able to do the work

Some contractors have their own training programs for masons. Although workers may enter apprenticeships directly, some masons start out as construction helpers. The Home Builders Institute and the International Masonry Institute offer pre-apprenticeship training program for eight construction trades, including masonry.

After completing an apprenticeship program, masons are considered journey workers and are able to perform tasks on their own.

Important Qualities for Masonry Workers

Color vision. Terrazzo workers must be able to distinguish between small variations in color when setting terrazzo patterns in order to produce the best looking finish.

Hand-eye coordination. Workers must be able to apply smooth, even layers of mortar, set bricks, and remove any excess before the mortar hardens.

Math skills. Cement masons use their knowledge of math—including measurement, volume, and mixing proportions—when they mix their own mortar.

Physical stamina. Brickmasons must keep a steady pace while setting bricks all day. Although no individual brick is extremely heavy, the constant lifting can be tiring.

Physical strength. Workers must be strong enough to lift more than 50 pounds. They must also carry heavy tools, equipment, and other materials, such as bags of mortar and grout.

Visualization. Stonemasons must be able to see how stones fit together in order to build attractive and stable structures.

Masonry Worker Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for masonry workers is $39,640. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,980, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $71,510.

Median annual wages for masonry workers are as follows:

Brickmasons and blockmasons $47,950
Terrazzo workers and finishers 40,710
Stonemasons 38,630
Cement masons and concrete finishers 37,740
Segmental pavers 30,730

Although most masons work full time, some work more hours to meet construction deadlines. However, because they primarily work outdoors, masons may have to stop work in extreme cold or rainy weather. Nonetheless, new materials, such as concrete additives that cure at lower temperatures, have been developed that allow masons to work in a greater variety of weather conditions than in the past. Terrazzo masons may need to work at night when businesses are closed.

About 1 in 10 masonry workers are self-employed. Self-employed workers may be able to set their own schedule.

Job Outlook for Masonry Workers[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of masonry workers is projected to grow 15 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations. Although employment growth will vary by occupation, growth will depend on the number of commercial, public, and civil construction projects such as new roads, bridges, and buildings.

Employment of brickmasons and block masons is projected to grow 19 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations. Population growth will result in the construction of more schools, hospitals, apartment buildings, and other structures, many of which are made of brick and block. In addition, masons will be needed to restore a growing number of brick buildings. Although expensive, brick exteriors should remain popular, reflecting a preference for low-maintenance, durable exterior materials.

Employment of cement masons and concrete finishers is projected to grow 13 percent over the next ten years, faster than the average for all occupations. More cement masons will be needed to build and renovate highways, bridges, factories, and residential structures in order to meet the demands of a growing population and to make repairs to aging infrastructure.

The use of concrete for buildings is increasing because its strength is an important asset in areas prone to severe weather. For example, residential construction projects in Florida are using more concrete as building requirements change in reaction to the increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes. The use of concrete is likely to expand into other hurricane-prone areas as the durability of Florida homes built with concrete becomes more established.

Employment of segmental pavers is projected to grow 9 percent over the next ten years, faster than the average for all occupations. Segmental pavers install a wide variety of durable walkway and driveway material options that are in demand.

Employment of stonemasons is projected to grow 14 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 2,100 new jobs over the 10-year period. Natural stone is both a durable and popular material. As incomes and the population continue to grow, more homeowners will want natural stone to differentiate their homes from those around them.

Employment of terrazzo workers and finishers is projected to grow 7 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Terrazzo is a durable and attractive flooring option that is often used in schools, government buildings, and hospitals. The construction and renovation of such buildings will spur demand for these workers. However, because polished concrete is similar to terrazzo and usually less expensive, this may limit the need for terrazzo workers.

Masonry Workers Job Prospects

Overall job prospects for masons should continue to be favorable as construction activity continues to grow to meet the demand for new buildings and roads. As with many other construction workers, employment of masons is sensitive to the fluctuations of the economy. On the one hand, workers may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, shortages of workers may occur in some areas during peak periods of building activity.

While many masons are expected to retire over the next decade, more job openings will result from employment growth.

Workers with a good job history and with experience in construction should have the best job opportunities. Those who have taken masonry courses in high school or technical college should have slightly better opportunities. In addition, workers with military service experience are viewed favorably during initial hiring.

Employment projections data for Masonry Workers, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Masonry workers 252,900 290,200 15 37,300
  Brickmasons and blockmasons 78,100 92,600 19 14,500
  Stonemasons 14,900 17,100 14 2,100
  Cement masons and concrete finishers 155,200 175,500 13 20,300
  Terrazzo workers and finishers 3,400 3,600 7 200
  Segmental pavers 1,300 1,400 9 100


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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